Top Sonoma Wineries to Visit for First-Timers
I am heading back to Sonoma in just under a month as part of my annual trip to one of my favourite wine regions in the world and to escape the Canadian winter for a few days. This year I will be attending Premiere Napa Valley, an auction to raise funds for charity. This is a great event which allows trade to bid on cases of unique wines as well as taste through just under 200 different Napa wines. Needless to say I am pretty excited.
I have already written about the Top Napa Wineries to visit for First-Timers. However I wanted to share with you my favourite wineries to visit on the other side of the valley in Sonoma. Sonoma is less well known compared to Napa, however that does not mean it should be overlooked. In fact, I tend to recommend Sonoma over Napa for first-timers to California, since Napa can certainly be overwhelming. Sonoma produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and even some Sparkling Wine towards the north in Anderson Valley. Note: None of the following wineries have paid to be on this list
1) Dutton Goldfield - Owned by Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield, two friends who had one common dream: To produce wines they would enjoy at their dinner table every night! Located in Sebastopol. They produce a range of wines, however their Chardonnays are fantastic. You should also not miss their Pinot Noirs and and Zins. Their tasting room has both inside and outside seating, and tasting varies from $20-45 with the fee waived with a minimum purchase. They also have Sushi along with Wine and Cheese flights.
2) Lynmar Estate - You have not understood the Russian River appellation until you have visited Lynmar. Their focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their mainly estate grown vineyards. Their wines are lush, elegant and perfectly show the full potential of the Russian River appellation. Their tasting room is gorgeous, and you will be wonderfully taken care of. Tastings range from $40-90, reservations are required.
3) Three Sticks Winery - Located in downtown Sonoma, this is a perfect stop to fully enjoy some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs in the Valley. Their estate vineyards are located in some of the most prized locations in Sonoma: Sonoma Coast, Russian River, Sonoma Valley and Carneros. Their range of vineyards allows you to fully appreciate the Sonoma appellation and the nuances between each site. Tastings range from $50 - 200 for a private luncheon, reservations required.
4) Vérité Winery - Sonoma has one of the most diverse soil types in the world. However most wineries focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Vérité focuses on premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France and Merlot blends. The Grapes are sourced from multiple top tier sites across Sonoma with a focus on high end quality and soil diversification. Tastings are $75 and you will try their three famous wines: La Muse, La Joie and Le Désir.
5) Ridge Vineyards - Ridge is best known for finishing 5th in the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting with their Monte Bello from their Santa Cruz location. However they also produce some of the best Zinfandels in California at their Lytton Springs location, with 100 year old wines, these Zins are like nothing you have ever tasted. Their tastings range from $10 - 25 and you taste both current and library editions of most of their wines. Reservations not required.
6) Ramey Wine Cellars - David Ramey is one of the best winemakers in California and his Chardonnays are absolutely stunning. I was lucky enough to taste through his range of Chardonnays last year, and I was not just impressed by his current wines, but how well they age! Californian Chardonnays are often overlooked in terms of ageing potential, but David is able to produce wines which will last 10+ years. Tastings range from $50-75 and if you get to meet David, it is an experience you will never forget.
What are your favourite places to visit when in Sonoma?